Friday, 7 December 2012

Michael O’Leary, twat or cunt? A philological con-undrum


I quote Carole Cadwallar from her piece on the latest piece of ridiculous flim-flammery to emerge from the mouth of Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary. 




Customers had complained about having to pay £60 if they’d forgotten to print their own ticket. What did O’Leary have to say to them? ‘We say quite politely to those passengers, bugger off.’

And so, in The Observer, Carole Cadwallar used similarly base language to describe the Ryanair boss. ‘Michael O’Leary is a twat . . . He is . . . And Ryanair . . . is a twattish airline.’

Ah now, Carole, I beg to question. Is it fair to call O’Leary a twat? Is it an accurate characterisation? Is it reasonable to compare him — and his airline — to a piece of female genitalia? And then there is the most vital question of all: if Michael O’Leary is a vagina, is twat the best word in the context?

Some possible alternatives can be easily dismissed. He is clearly no pussy — there is nothing meek about him (or his airline). Nor is he a fanny — certainly there’s no fannying about in the Ryanair universe.

No, there are only two possible vagina words for the airline boss: twat or cunt. And I’d challenge Cadwaller’s choice of twat. I think most people would agree that it’s the weaker word and that a twat’s twattishness is the result of stupidity or, even more likely, laziness. A twat is an English equivalent of a French con — foolish rather than malevolent. The French play and film, Le Diner Des Cons


Le Dîner de cons 



was translated Dinner for Schmucks. Not for cunts. Though when they showed it in France, it was translated - confusingly, I would have thought - back to the same title as the original French film


 
When children’s author Jacqueline Wilson called someone a twat in her 2008 book, My Sister Jodie, that is surely the sense she was after. Someone that is useless, a drain on humanity but, really, they don’t do it on purpose. Someone doing something stupid like, say, using the word ‘twat’ in a book for children.


A cunt, though, knows what they are doing. And I find it hard to believe that O’Leary doesn’t know what he’s doing. In fact, I’m sure that his consciously obstructive rules for his airline are, more than anything, a way of getting free publicity. If I told people they couldn’t come in my house without a pre-printed ticket, then tried to charge them for printing it, I would, I reckon, be called a cunt for doing it. So O’Leary is clearly more cunt than twat. I quote myself, from my book Filthy English.


‘Cunt has only recently been used as an insult - since the late 19th century roughly. In that time, though, it has acquired unparalleled potency and pungency. I'd say there was an implication - an accusation, probably - of active malevolence in calling someone a cunt. Which is, to my mind, the reason it's seen as such a terrible word. Not because it represents vaginas and not just because it represents real hatred but because it represents real hatred allied to vaginas. So it's a violent repudiation of all our origins.’


PS1 All things considered, though, I don’t think O’Leary really is a cunt. He’s not nasty enough for that. (Nasty being another vagina word, of course.) Matter of fact, I’d use a native Irish phrase for him. I’d say he was a cute hoor. And if you want to know more about cute hoors, you’ll have to buy my book — now available, and selling well, as an eBook.


PS2 You don’t have to go via the satanic Amazon either. Both paperback and eBook are available via Waterstones.com, Play.com, Foyles.co.uk, blackwell.co.uk . . . and any good online bookstore.




5 comments:

Lo Jardinier said...

You're very dogged in your attempts to get us to swear properly - I can smell the beginnings of a Plain Filthy English Campaign - and did you know it'll be Plain English Day this Friday? My mate Ray - to whom I gave a copy of your book - tells me I just can't do it. Which makes me think you should run courses,very expensive weeks on a Greek island, perhaps, to teach people like me (but richer)how to profane properly. Then you'd really be a cute hoor.

Peter Silverton said...

freud (or someone of that ilkiness) wrote about neurotic exgomany - women (though it could have of course been men, too) who can't have sex with men of their own ethnicity - i think it was jewish girls he particularly had in mind . . .

anyway, in the nicest possible way, i suggest you can't take the tunbridge wells out of the boy . . . too many years of (quite reasonable) politesseness . . .

so what i (with my doctor swearing homburg on) suggest to you is that you forget about english swearing and just work on your french (or occitan) profanity . . .

so, un, deux, putain!

Lo Jardinier said...

You've got me to a T(W). Can I suggest 'malin' as a french adjective for O'Leary - shades of meaning include 'crafty' and 'malign' (same root). Only problem is, it's not a swear.

Lizimid said...

I would propose calling him a 'complete tosser'. The distinction between between being a bit of a tosser which is much like being a twat, and a COMPLETE tosser being more than it might seem. One could forgive a bit of a tosser because he has other redeeming features. It is almost affectionate, and certainly harmless. However if he is complete tosser there is nothing for him but derision. I think 'cunt' is wrong because it somehow manages still to convey just the tiniest bit of admiration and power. A cunt can be almost admirably malevolent; his power lying in the hatred he has provoked. A tosser however is simply an enhanced buerk or tool. He doesn't inspire wrath, just disbelief or pity. Ratner was sure a complete tosser when he told his customers his jewellery was shit, and this follows suit. ( PS i like it very much that your security feature requires me to prove I am not a robot - i might as well try to prove i am not a Camembert)

Peter Silverton said...

excellent comments, lizimid - i do have to differ, though - i do admire o'leary, you see - however loathsome it might seem, i can't help but feel that building a marketing program entirely on the basis of saying outrageous, insulting things to get up people's noses is, at the very least, highly amusing - think of him as michael o'mclaren perhaps